The drug take back program in Chippewa County recorded steady numbers in the amount of prescription drugs given back to its centers in 2018.
Brian Micolichek, lieutenant of investigations for the Chippewa Falls Police Department, said they’ve continued to average between 1,000 to 1,200 pounds of medications turned in at all the boxes around the county.
The police station in Chippewa Falls received 620 pounds last year, up from 530 pounds of medication in 2017 but down from 893 pounds in 2016 and 949 pounds in 2015.
Micolichek said that some of the decrease could be due to the public becoming more aware to empty their excess pills into a plastic bag to put in the container and not put their medical containers in, which may reduce the weight.
He said there are people who come yearly to get rid of excess medications, but commonly people will be cleaning out when moving or after someone dies and bring in leftover medication then.
“It all depends,” Micolichek said.
The program, which has been in the county since around 2010, accepts a wide amount of prescription medicines, as well as prescriptions themselves.
They don’t take things like needles or thermometers, however.
These types of programs have had a growing population both statewide and nationally, with nationwide collection events twice a year.
The 16th nationwide drug take back day event was held in October for 2018, and was participated in by 4,770 law enforcement agencies nationally, with 287 of those in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin accounted for 66,090 pounds of the over 900,000 pounds collected in that event, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The two largest goals of collecting drugs are to both get them out of circulation where they could be abused by someone without a prescription, and to remove them without them entering the water system by being flushed or thrown in the garbage.
At the police department, the emptied daily and the drugs will be stored in the station’s evidence room awaiting transport to the State Patrol headquarters.
From there, federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials transport them to a special incinerator in Illinois for disposal. The machine is equipped with a special exhaust system to scrub the smoke of drug residue.
Since they got a 24-hour drop off box in their building in 2011, most other law enforcement agencies have also adopted the practice across the state, Micolichek said.
A new county-wide effort to curb methamphetamine addiction is beginning, with its organizers hoping to gather community members together to crowdsource solutions.
The task force is led by consulting group RR Consulting Group, organizational consultants based out of Madison that have worked with groups such as Eau Claire County, the UW-Extension and Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
Buck Rhyme, president of RR Consulting Group, said that at the core level their idea is help the community form groups and harness the smaller groups around the county to create and execute projects to fight meth addiction.
“There’s a tremendous resource of hardworking citizens,” Rhyme said. “People who really believe in their communities.”
A small team composed of the consultants along with members of Chippewa County administration and others will help form a task force of members of relevant organizations and individuals from around the county.
Rhyme said that the task force will in turn organize groups of like-minded people from different parts of the Chippewa County community, like those involved in business or education.
Those groups — around seven of them — will study the methamphetamine problem in the county and come up with projects they feel could reach small solutions to parts of the wider issue.
County administrator Randy Scholz said the idea first came into discussions in June, when they had approached RR Consulting Group to do a five-year plan for the county’s Criminal Justice Collaborating Council. This plan to more directly combat meth addiction was floated instead.
The costs are going to be split, with half coming from private donations and fundraising and the county paying around $20,000 from the administrations contracted services budget.
In Chippewa County, as statewide, meth addiction is the cause attributed to not only much interpersonal tragedy and crime, but continued drains on health services at all levels.
According to data published by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in 2017, there was an estimated annual economic cost of $424 million due to methamphetamine use in the state, including the cost of healthcare and lost productivity.
The consultants said that they expect to have completed projects to report by the end of the year, at which time they would leave the community to manage continued work for probably the next two years after that.
Scholz said he saw the potential to impact the wider community through this project.
“I’m very excited about it,” Scholz said. “I think it can have long lasting effects in this community.”
The plan was introduced to the county board of supervisors Tuesday night.
County supervisor Dean Gullickson said he didn’t think there was a single area in the county where there wasn’t someone dealing with the effects of the meth problem in the county.
“It reflects on everybody,” Gullickson said. “This is the largest problem facing this county.”